Several days ago, I received an email requesting a description of the ability and ease of viewing/navigating a website on the UX180P. Since web browsing on the UX is a broad topic, I’ve decided to break this installment in the feature-specific review series into two parts. Part 1 will cover the different ways of actually getting online, while Part 2 will address the emailer’s request.
One of my favorite features of the UX (and all UMPCs and handtops for that matter) is its full and complete access to the Internet. Unlike browsers optimized for devices such as cell phones and PDAs, websites on the UX and its counterparts appear exactly as they do on 23" computer monitors…only much smaller. And since the machines are running Windows XP, you can view your favorite sites (designed as they were intended to be – not truncated or without graphics) through Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox, and other browsers.
The UX180P offers four different methods to get you online, each with its own unique set of pros and cons. Choose whichever is best for you, or switch between all four depending on your mood (and location). To get online, you can:
1. Use a network cable. This method offers the fastest speeds, but limits your mobility to the length of your cable. Ethernet ports are only available on the supplied replicator and VGA/LAN travel adapter, so if you’re traveling and want to plug in somewhere, don’t forget to bring one of these with you.
2. Use Wi-Fi. Since the UX is equipped with WLAN, you can get online wherever there’s a wireless access point. The advantage of this is, of course, freeing yourself from wires, but being wire-free is only as good as the number of surrounding hotspots. Personally, I think this is a better choice for when you’re at home than when you’re out and about.
3. Use Bluetooth. There are many guides, such as this one, on how to use your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone as a modem. You’ll suffer from the slow dial-up speed, but you’ll be able to go online just about anywhere you use your cell phone. And since Bluetooth isn’t line-of-sight technology, you can leave your phone in your purse, briefcase, or pocket and still browse your favorite sites.
4. Use EDGE. Unlike its brethren, the UX180P has built-in WWAN for connecting to the EDGE network, which is as far-reaching as your cell phone carrier’s coverage. Faster speeds aside, the benefit of this over connecting via Bluetooth is that you can use your phone while (vs. instead of) surfing the net. The disadvantage is the price (Cingular charges upwards of $70/month!), though unlocking the UX and getting T-Mobile’s $19.99 unlimited Internet add-on plan is pretty reasonable. I haven’t tried this yet, but I read that if you call Sony directly, they’ll honor the 30-day free trial without requiring you to sign the one- or two-year contract like the preinstalled Cingular software demands.
Launching your browser
Now that you’ve chosen how to get online, it’s time to decide how to launch your browser. Of course, there’s the old standby: double-click the shortcut on your desktop or click on the Start menu. Yawn! While this may be the most sensible approach on a desktop or notebook computer, it isn’t the best on the UX180P.
There are several options to launch your browser (or any program) quickly and easily. Most of them can be accessed through VAIO Central.
Click on any picture for a slightly larger view.
1. Reconfigure the buttons surrounding the LCD. Clicking on the Special Buttons folder in VAIO Central will reveal the "Button/Keyboard Settings" option.
Open this option to view the default settings for the button functions.
Then select from the dropdown menu to reconfigure each button. The "Internet" choice is linked to Internet Explorer. If you prefer a different browser, select "Start Program" from the menu.
Hit "OK" and you’re done. You can now launch your browser with the simple click of a button.
2. Enable the Easy Launcher. Clicking on the Keyboard and Mouse folder in VAIO Central will reveal four options. Open the "Built-in Pointing Device" or "Mouse" option to access "Stick Settings," where you can once again make a selection from the dropdown menu.
Choosing "Easy Launcher" will activate the "Settings for Easy Launcher" button, which is otherwise inaccessible. Customize to your heart’s content and add your browser (or any program) to the list. Once your settings have been applied, hit the assigned button at any time to bring up the utility.
Your pointer will be locked into the Easy Launcher window, so it won’t take much effort to point to and click the browser icon. This isn’t a one-click launch like the first option, but it’s a good choice if you pin a lot of programs to the Easy Launcher menu.
3. Use the biometric fingerprint scanner. If you haven’t already enrolled any of your fingerprints into the system, be sure to take a look at the Fingerprint Tutorial accessible through your Start menu or Program Files folder.
It’s the only place you can learn how to correctly swipe your fingers.
If you’ve already enrolled your fingerprints, swipe an unassigned finger across the sensor to access the Protector Suite QL menu.
Click "Settings" and then the "Applications" tab to assign your browser to one of your fingers.
Now all it t akes to get online is a quick swipe of your finger!
4. Use the Touch Command. Clicking on the Keyboard and Mouse folder in VAIO Central will reveal the "Touch Panel" option.
Open this option, click on the "Advanced" tab, and choose "VAIO TOUCH COMMAND mode."
Then click on the "VAIO TOUCH COMMAND" button, followed by the "Other Application" tab, where you can customize 1 of 10 stylus commands to launch your browser.
To activate the touch command, press and hold your stylus anywhere on the screen. After the "VAIO Touch Command" window appears, perform the assigned command to get online.
Read Part 2 of this review here.